30 year Mumon Roshi memorial

Today Mumon Roshi will be remembered and celebrated since it is exactly 30 years that he passed away. In his honour, Myorin Daishi from Hungary has gathered these texts and is sharing them with the world wide One Drop Sangha.

Excerpts from the book "How to do Zazen?" by Shodo Harada Roshi

It was early, so the buses were very crowded. I had to push through this packed crowd of people to board the bus, then move all the way to the back. As I did so, all of a sudden I came upon someone who struck me as most unusual. He had a mysterious presence-there was something luminous about him. There he was, an old priest in robes, wearing glasses and reading a book, yet he glowed with a type of light. In comparison, the people around him seemed so weighed down by their thoughts and cares. I stood in the aside, a youth who didn’t like Buddhism and lived in a temple only because of the circumstances of his birth, and yet I was deeply moved by this intelligent-looking man who seemed so deep and so still and who radiated such brightness of spirit. Why did he seem so different from everyone else on the bus? I had never met a person like this before, and I couldn’t figure out what was so inspiring about him. There I was, having been brought up in a way I didn’t want to continue, thinking that temples and priests were really not appealing, when all of a sudden this mysterious person appears with all this great depth, who was obviously a priest. Why would be choose this way of expressing himself ?

I was so intrigued by this man and the question he was presenting to me by his whole presence, that when the priest got off I followed him. It turned out that this person, Yamada Mumon, was on his way to Reiun-in, a small Buddhist temple in Myoshin-ji. I followed him right to the gate and saw him go in.

It was this encounter that made me realize how limited my understanding of Buddhism was. I saw that there was a whole aspect of the religion that I knew nothing about. Despite growing up in the temple world I had turned my back on its teachings; I doubt I would ever have become a monk if I had not met Mumon Roshi. Because of him I saw for the first time how the inner quality of a person can shine forth from his entire being, and I wished to know more about the teachings that so illuminated Mumon Roshi.

Excerpts from Shodo Harada Roshi's Postscript in the book of 'Enso House'

“Feeling that the day was somehow unusually pleasant, I moved to the porch to enjoy the fresh air, the wafting breeze—the breeze that came across the porch, blowing through the white heavenly bamboo flowers. What a great feeling breeze! An indescribably wonderful feeling came to me, and a thought arose. In this weak, sickness-stricken body, I was struck by the question, ‘What is this wonderful breeze?’
“And then a thought occurred to me—I was so deeply struck, as if I had been hit with an iron bar! ‘This breeze! It is air!’ While this body was so ridden with sickness I could barely sit up straight, I became riveted to the thought ‘This breeze is air; there is always air!’ Everyone had abandoned me, but there is air, which never has left me alone, not even for a single second. And not just me, but everyone is held like this. We cannot live only by our own bodies; we are all embraced and given life by a huge power.”
“Usually when we think of air, it is only an idea about air. This most precious air, without which we cannot live for even one minute—it is so important and yet we take it for granted! All day and all night without any break whatsoever, whether we are working or resting or sleeping or waking, we may forget it, but air has never ever forgotten us!”

Realizing this so deeply and totally and seeing how true it was, he wanted to shout it to the skies. A new energy and motivation rose up in him. Without even thinking about it, the words came out of his mouth,

Oh Great All Embracing Mind!
A clear realization,
Brought to me by this morning’s cool wafting breeze.

This is the writing of my teacher, Mumon Yamada Roshi, when he told about his own experience. These are his words that I am here putting into my own words. My teacher almost died from tuberculosis. He was on death’s edge for a long time; for years he lived with this threat. Then in this life of sickness, he discovered a deep truth he expressed in these words.
People are born, and then they live their whole life facing death. How many people are truly full of joy? Most people are melancholy and face the end of their life thinking that it is the end of everything. But life is not something melancholy. We each have received and are always receiving grace from so many others in order to stay alive—it is immeasurable...

Foreword by Priscilla Daichi Storandt in the book "Lectures on the Ten Oxherding Pictures" by Yamada Mumon Roshi

Those of us who came into contact with Mumon Roshi felt him to be an exemplar of the truly developed person, one who lives each gesture and every moment beyond ego. In his every movement, he showed us that what we had read about was actually possible, that awakening was alive in an accessible human being. Mumon Roshi was clear of all attachment to any desires. In truly forgetting himself, he was beyond the need to make any further conscious efforts to let go of ego. He was constantly, energetically, and unselfconsciously using his life to be the Way for others. We can read for years about the possibility and the methods of working to develop ourselves; we can hear of great masters of the past and hope to emulate them. But to actually meet a person who has thoroughly become selfless in state of mind is life-changing in its effect on our ability to believe that it is actually possible for us as well.

Although it was not formal practice that led him to his first enlightenment experience (a spontaneous enlightenment when he was abandoned to die with tuberculosis), Mumon Roshi nevertheless continued throughout his life in teaching other people to believe in the clear true nature and to realize enlightenment through formal Zen training. Never limiting his audience to those who were ordained or of some special virtue, he extended himself energetically to men and women of all ages, livelihoods, nationalities and beliefs. Very far ahead of his time for the Showa period in Japan, he allowed women and even non-ordained men and women to train right along with the monks. This was a unique offering to people who had been traditionally turned away from any possibility of monastic Rinzai training. He would often tell us, chuckling, that he kept his beard and hair long and unshaved, as a reminder to people that all human beings are endowed with exactly the same buddha-nature. He reminded us that Bodhidharma wore an earring and Kannon-sama a necklace, thus noting that enlightenment is accessible to anyone who makes the necessary effort.

Although he was so open and welcoming to anyone seriously interested in training, even being described as grandmotherly (“feeding enlightenment on a spoon” in his easily grasped lectures), Mumon Roshi’s stance on life’s meaning was straight and uncompromising: we are alive in order to realize kensho or enlightenment. For this purpose we exist in human bodies on this planet. He never wasted an opportunity to say it again in a new way, a more encouraging way, a way that would allow us no wasting of time or slipping off the point into a wavering sidetrack. How often we would think he was actually reading our thoughts! The pulse of his very existence prodded us without cease, urged us relentlessly to keep up our efforts. Constantly  he reminded us, “There is something that never changes. I urge you to ponder it well, my friends.”
In this book, Mumon Roshi’s formal lectures to his monks have been translated for the English reader. This series of lectures, on the Zen text, The Ten Oxherding Pictures, was given during one of the traditionally set three-month training periods. Although he lectured broadly to various types of audiences, his regular Dharma lectures to the monks training with him maintained a traditional Zen form and flavor. Revealing the teaching beyond the words, these lectures are not so much about the Dharma as they are the Dharma speaking itself. His manner of speaking is direct and may even seem at times harsh, pointed as they are at the listener’s intuitive participation. The Roshi always began a Dharma lecture by reading the text in the ancient Chinese style after which he rang a bell and then a ceremonial cup of tea was served. Next he proceeded to explain the text, its historical context and any difficult terms. Then came the revealing of the text’s internal spiritual teaching and exquisite Dharma fabric, which were only to be thoroughly grasped through sharp intuitive attention. Often the monks, who had been meditating for long hours prior to the lecture, were easily lulled to sleep by the droning reading of the text, despite their best intention to listen wholeheartedly. This fact was also responsible for the occasional strong reminders and compassionate derogatory remarks made by Mumon Roshi, which could be very powerful. Consistently they had an uncanny effect of making us listeners want to get right back to the zazen cushion and concentrate as hard as possible, harder than ever before. Mumon Roshi’s energy, with his own exquisite telling of the universe’s story unraveled through the Patriarchs’ teachings and discoveries made possible through true zazen, could do that. He made it seem easy and joyful, the only thing we could possible want to do. The inner essence of these lectures conveyed by word and gesture was again one more expression of what he never tired of reminding us, that from the beginning, we are ALL already endowed with that same clean pure mind which the Buddha realized in his deep awakening. It is in order to clarify and experience that true mind directly, RIGHT NOW, that we have been born.

Excerpt from the "Thoughts on My Master, Yamada Mumon" by Shodo Harada Roshi

...On December 10th, starting from a low fever and a slight cold, and being a little tired, he suddenly began loosing his physical strength. On the 19th he asked for his paper and brush to be brought and wrote his final poem. On the twenty-fourth in the presence of his recognized top disciple Kono Taitsu Roshi, and abbot of Reiunin Temple Shunan Noritake who was his attendant to the very end, and the few other attendants, he gave one big yawn and died.

In his final poem he wrote:

For the liberation of all beings 
There is finally nothing to be said 
No words, no form
Only abandoning everything
Throughout the heavens and earths.

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